There are few aspects of a market-driven culture that are more important than the designation of being a customer. From the goods we purchase to the services we utilize, this comprises a necessary part of every person’s identity. However, as the retail landscape continues to change and purchasing power has been driven online in recent years, the word customer oftentimes seems to have been replaced by the word ‘consumer’ – a markedly different definition that does not necessarily evaporate as soon as one walks out of a store.
According to Merriam-Webster, a customer is defined as, “Someone who buys goods or services from a business.” A consumer, on the other hand, is defined as, “A person who buys goods and services.” While a customer exists in relation to the business they’ve purchased goods from, outside of that relationship they are no longer a customer. A consumer, however, is anyone who buys goods and services (and nearly everyone on the planet does), so even out of accordance with a particular business, a person can remain a consumer.
In June 2017, one of the largest cruise ships in the world, the MSC Meraviglia, is scheduled to set sail. While the ship does not hold the most passengers, it will be the first boat to feature Cirque du Soleil performances created specifically for the cruise and, most notably, an augmented reality device created in partnership with Samsung. According to MSC Cruise CEO Gianni Onorato, their fleet of ships will be “equipped throughout with Samsung’s latest-technology products and solutions…the best of the next generation in smart ships at sea.”
The Samsung augmented reality device will enable cruise ship passengers to see what they look like in the goods that can be bought on board without them having to try anything on. While cruise ship travel has long been a one-stop shop for all one might want at sea from the buffets and restaurants to the variety of entertainment, such a device tops even those things in its conspicuousness. Instead of merely being a cruise ship patron, one is – through the evolution of a technology – a consumer.
It’s easy to buy and sell things like this device as more convenient, another way to make a shopping trip or personal expenditure more seamless, but that fact that – more often than not – technology is best at aiding an increase in our identity as consumers is discomforting. If technology is the chosen direction of progress, why must it run in the current of more seamless consumption?
In Twilight of the Idols, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that:
“When a people is perishing, degenerating physiologically, vice and luxury (that is to say the necessity for stronger and stronger and more and more frequent stimulants, such as every exhausted nature is acquainted with) follow therefrom.”
In a time where things are easier to consume and newer stimulants and products are always being created (Caramel Mocha Mint Toasted Oreo frappuccino anyone?), Nietzsche’s words ring out with a particular warning. But, whatever the trajectory of culture, the contrast between a cruise ship replete with all of the conveniences known to man – exclusive stores and high end restaurants, gyms and nightclubs and bowling alleys – against the very breadth of the sea, one of fathoms almost unreachable and millions of creatures known and unknown, is in itself an impressive thing to behold.